One of the loyal readers to this blog, wrote and asked me what I thought the future looked like for the combination of radio and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In today’s blog, I will consider that very question.
Is it Live, or is it Memorex?
I remember when the audio quality of tape recorders became so improved with audio reproduction, that the question of the day was, “Is it live or is it Memorex?” Memorex was a company established in 1961 for selling magnetic computer tapes. In the 70s Memorex moved into producing quality audio tape for recording music and voice.
TV commercials at that time featured Ella Fitzgerald singing a note that shattered a glass, while simultaneously being recorded on an audio cassette. The recorded audio would then be played back and the recording would also shatter a glass, to which the announcer would ask, “Is it live, or is it Memorex?”
Is AI Going to Replace Voicetracking?
Then Radio Ink published a story that got many of the people in my radio, podcasting and other social media groups talking about, titled “Is AI going to replace voicetracking?”
Voicetracking technology has been used to replace live radio personalities for decades, but what AI presents the industry with is the possible ability to bring back the big name radio personalities.
Dan Ingram, Larry Lujack, Robert W. Morgan, The Real Don Steele…
Imagine your radio market’s favorite radio personality returning to the airwaves. It’s not out of the realm of possibility.
A company called WellSaid Labs has created dozens of human voice avatars where all one needs to do to get them to talk, is type text into a computer and the voice will say it.
Imagine how having a creative person, who has studied the style of an iconic personality, and then creating new, contemporary material to be delivered in that personality’s voice might sound.
Now you might be wondering why anyone would want this type of technology. Well, Netflix now streams content worldwide and buys new content from producers all over the world. Much of that content is produced in the country’s native language and so Netflix has to show that content with either subtitles or voice-dubbing the dialog with voice actors speaking in the language of the country the material will air in.
It might not surprise you to learn that when Netflix has offered viewers two ways of viewing a program, Americans in particular, prefer voice-dubbing to subtitles. (I know I do.)
To speed up the process of voice-dubbing and to have voices that sound the same as the original actors, companies like WellSaid are developing artificial intelligence technology that by voice sampling can then re-create the voice automatically.
I already have conversations with Alexa and have wondered what she might sound like as a DJ on a radio station, haven’t you?
The afternoon DJ on KCSN, Andy Chanley, has been on-the-air there for over 32 years. Now using a robot DJ named ANDY (Artificial Neural Disk-Jockey), Chanley’s voice will continue to be heard in many places throughout Southern California. During a demonstration for Reuters, reporters say that Chanley’s AI voice was hard to distinguish from his human voice.
You can listen to these computer generated voices WellSaid has created for yourself by clicking on this link: https://wellsaidlabs.com/?#actors-preview-list
Is Your Favorite DJ Already a Robot?
WellSaid says its voice avatars are doing more than just DJ work, they are being used extensively in corporate training material and the creation of audio books.
Do I think I will live to see radio’s great personalities coming back to life? No, because I think there will be too many legal issues that might complicate that from happening anytime soon.
But I do think that original voice avatars, teamed up with creative content developers, might just come into existence sooner than we imagine and provide us with an entirely new form of radio entertainment.
9 responses to “Is it LIVE or AI?”
I’m guessing most AI radio voices will be generic announcers, but it could certainly be used to immortalize contemporary personalities. If the technology had existed before Paul Harvey died, I am quite sure ABC would have used it to keep “him” on the air.
For most voiced radio/audio content (news, banter, spots) going forward, it will be necessary for the folks who write the words to have a full understanding of writing like people speak (both in style and inflection); it’s really an art that few have mastered. Even standard written English sounds stiff and awkward when read aloud.
That said, the complexity of most talk shows probably means AI won’t be replacing the best hosts for a while. AI hosts will have to learn to interact with humans in an engaging, highly intelligent, form in real-time; I suspect we are a long way from that.
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Paul Harvey would be a particularly great voice/delivery to apply AI to. In fact, Paul Harvey, Jr was writing most of his “Rest of the Story” scripts as I understand it.
The more concerning aspect of this innovation, is creating “deep fakes” that give people the impression that someone said something they never did.
Todd, we live in interesting times.
Thanks for adding to the discussion.
Since Paul Harvey has been brought up, in one story I read about innovating radio, the author suggested bringing his audio clips on the air. Furthermore, he suggested bringing back the live entertainment hour with several characters. I wish it was different, but great radio as we boomers knew it is dead.
The radio we enjoyed Victor, was perfect for that moment in time. Each generation has its own music, entertainment and venue to which it is enjoyed. Life goes on.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year Victor.
Since Paul Harvey has been brought up, in one story I read about innovating radio, the author suggested bringing his audio clips on the air. Furthermore, he suggested bringing back the live entertainment hour with several characters. I wish it was different, but great radio as we boomers knew it is dead. Stations that are hyper local programming will survive in some form.
The thing I wonder about is the fact that the trend in music radio has been increasingly to not draw attention to the jocks or allow them to stand out. I don’t see this changing anytime soon. So, to me it wouldn’t matter much if I was listening to generic AI. Even if they could somehow duplicate someone like Dan Ingram perfectly, would today’s corporate run stations put it on the air. I treasure every new aircheck I can add to my collection as I really believe without the competition in nearly every market that existed in years past, I don’t believe great radio is ever coming back. The other thing, of course, is the annoying and unlistenable 8-9 minute stop sets with predominantly questionable products, services and quack doctors.
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Charlie, I ponder those very same questions.
Merry Christmas and thanks for stopping by the blog and adding to this discussion today.
I hear there’s a new movie coming out: “The Stepford Disc Jockeys.”
It’s not out of the realm of possibility Curt.